Transforming financial services delivery at the grassroots: an interview with Pebuu Africa CEO

We currently find ourselves in a frenzy of the e-payment revolution: the payments field is dotted with players as diverse in the product as they are in approach. Everyone seems to agree only on one thing: the traditional credit card’s days are numbered.  Summit Insights features one of Uganda’s leading Fintech companies, PEBUU Africa CEO – John Paul Ssemyalo.

What exactly is Pebuu?

Pebuu is a fusion of payment solutions that target local immigrants, underserved communities, and people at the bottom of the pyramid in Uganda and across Africa. We launched into the payments space at a time when the country was transitioning from loading scratch-card airtime on phones to cashless or electronic-based alternatives.

At the time, MTN mobile money was in the early stages. The full potential of cashless was only gaining momentum. Since our founding in 2015, Pebuu has been offering cashless-based payment solutions using technology and mobile as alternatives to cash-based payments. Our electronic payment solutions have evolved to respond to the needs of the market.

There are lots of FinTech companies trying to revolutionize payment at the moment. How is Pebuu different?

The payments space is an ecosystem. Fintechs leverage technology service providers to deliver financial services. To stand out from the crowd, Pebuu’s focus is serving underserved communities to promote financial inclusion. Our technology solutions are cost-effective. This supports the last-mile financial service delivery to people who can not access formal financial services.

We leverage technology to remove barriers and enhance service delivery. As a company, we are adopting data analytics to aid our agent locations. We want our agents to make decent returns on investment. That way, we win as partners.

Which opportunities do you see in the financial services industry? How are you tapping into them?

With the spike in cashless payment points, the demand for financial services has increased. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated digital payments. To respond effectively, Pebuu introduced financial services such as micro-credits, pay later and insurance.

Using the data available on customers, we tailor-make financial solutions to solve your hustles. As Pebuu, we are focused on leveraging the customer data such as size and frequency of transactions to understand how such customers can use specific financial solutions such as Pebuu micro credit.

What does the National Payments Systems (NPS) Act mean to Pebuu’s operations?

Before the National Payments Systems (NPS) was passed into an act,  fintech operated in a regulatory vacuum. The NPS Act provides a streamlined environment where fintech operations are demarcated from those of banks, micro finances, telcos, and other financial services companies. Compliance with the NPS Act reassures banking and non-banking partners, as well as the regulators that fintech operations are financially safe, and sound and have the appropriate levels of controls in place to ensure stability in the larger financial industry into which we operate as a component.

Manual processes account for the biggest percentage of the high cost-to-income ratio in the financial sector. What is Pebuu’s strategic plan for digital service delivery?

Traditional channels of financial services delivery are very costly. Imagine the cost of setting up a bank branch. The bank must invest more than Ugx200M! With technology, the costs are significantly managed. You only have to ensure that you invest in cybersecurity to ensure that digital platforms are secure.

At the moment, Pebuu has ventured into digital points of sale, as well as cards by encouraging the use of cashless among the next generation of consumers. Through Pebuu schools program, we introduce cashless payment and digital POS solutions among school-going children thereby advancing the cashless culture and digital payments among the next generation of Uganda’s consumers.

Many of the underserved segments of society such as refugees, fishing communities, and women and youth entrepreneurs are among the communities we have empowered through the adoption of digital financial solutions.

What would be your advice to a new

Chief executive officer in your kind of industry?

The fintech industry tends to be both fast-growth and expensive. The greatest challenge management is to balance immediate gains versus long-term stability. Due to the highly innovative-driven products,  and considering the substantial initial costs sometimes required to develop those products and solutions, a new CEO must be prepared to balance the long-term vision with the short-term gains anticipated from any innovation.

This is usually because new innovative products can quickly become old, as more innovative alternatives come to the surface, thereby eroding earlier investments in product development. Yet without constant innovation, and continuous investments in product research and development; a CEO of any company in our industry wouldn’t be truly one of a leader of a fintech organization.

Thanks for your insights

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